Abrasive as they might sound, EBM duo Youth Code make music with a trance-like power. Employing an array of electronic elements, Sara Taylor and Ryan George harness the kind of industrial energy that either compels you to dance or makes you want to send your fist through a wall. Electronic artist King Yosef has a similar kind of hostile energy to his music, which makes the idea of these two acts joining forces seem like a natural, maybe even inevitable fit.
A Skeleton Key in the Doors of Depression is the first record to pair Youth Code with King Yosef, and it’s a musical step forward for both acts, from its hyper industrial club bangers (“Finally Docked”) to chilling meditations on depression (“Looking Down”). There is a mesmerizing presence to this material as well as a genuine emotional impact, apparent as soon as opener “Claw / Crawl” begins; the slow build-up of distortion-soaked chiptune gives way to a sudden minimalism, then shifts into a steady progression of synths and drums.
In contrast to the tracks that precede it, “Head Underwater” brings about a fun surprise, an electronic cut that contains some rock ‘n roll swagger. The use of guitar provides an intensity that further elevates the overall aggression. This ongoing contrast throughout Doors of Depression is one of its most appealing aspects; light and dark tones, vibrancy and gloom, elements that should clash against one another, but work so well in unison on this album. Over the course of eight tracks, the instrumentation works to emotionally guide the listener into a grim, yet insightful darkness.
Taylor, here, continues to prove herself to be a force to be reckoned with. Her voice has a bark to it, while her words make for a hell of a bite. Lyrically, as the title of the record may imply, Taylor explores an array of thorny topics that touch upon mental health, isolation and despair. With care, she provides lyrics that offer the possibility to connect with those who may be struggling with their own internal demons. “Will I ever get to Heaven/ If I can only look down?/ A calculated Armageddon/ Under this burdening crown.”
When Yosef provides his own vocals, he brings an additional layer of anger and pain. His voice on “Deathsafe” is menacing, shouting lines like, “To see there’s nothing/ To save what is dead/ Looking through the pane/ And nothing connects.” Whether shouting over somber atmospheres or hyper-exciting flows, Taylor and Yosef’s vocal performances help to amplify the deep emotional scars at the heart of these songs.
Constantly evolving and consistently intense, A Skeleton Key in the Doors of Depression is an intimate look at the horrors that take place in the mind, the battles we face in isolation, and the pains we may hold within.
A graduate of Columbia College Chicago's Creative Writing Program, Michael Pementel is a published music journalist, specializing in metal and its numerous subgenres. Along with his work for Treble and Bloody Disgusting, he has also written for Consequence of Sound, Metal Injection, Dread Central, Electronic Gaming Monthly and the Funimation blog.